Review by Kylie Thompson
Rating: 4 stars
Publisher: Mitchell Beazley/ Hachette
It’s easy to forget that behind every culture and religion are people trying to live the best life possible. If human connection is at the heart of mealtimes, perhaps the quickest insight into a culture or religion is to learn about its foods. Here, the politics and ideologies are stripped away until there’s nothing but the people, and the produce.
Though Judaism is a large part of our community, those of us outside the faith don’t always know, or understand, the vibrant culture. Oftentimes, we know the horrors of WWII, but not the beauty of the faith Hitler sought to destroy. In ‘Fress’ Masterchef finalist Emma Spitzer has created a primer to the Jewish kitchen; a conversation about family and food that’s sure to be a welcomed addition to your shelves.
‘Fress’, though a look at food from a Jewish kitchen, certainly isn’t a book aiming to convert readers to the faith; this is a book about recipes, not religion. Having said that, there are snippets here to help us learn a little bit more about a religion that, while mainstream, is still seen as rather mysterious to those outside of its community.
It might be surprising, for example, to realise that Jewish cooking is a gathering of recipes from multiples cultures and countries. What that means is that ‘Fress’ is a collection of dishes from the Middle East and Europe, with elements changed to conform to kosher dietary laws.
This isn’t overly complicated cookery. Instead, it’s dishes that are relatively easy to prepare- a step or two past the bare basic cooking efforts, but certainly not intimidating. And though there may be spices and ingredients here that aren’t overly familiar to all readers, Spitzer’s excitement about the foods and flavours is infectious. It’s hard not to be excited at the thought of trying new flavours.
Even better, so many of these dishes feel like the best kind of comfort food, packed with flavour and warmth, and just perfect for recovering from a bad day at work. ‘Fress’ is the sort of cookbook packed with must try dishes, the sort that leaves you mentally prepping a shopping list as you flick through its pages.
The photography is, unsurprisingly, stunning. The styling and presentation is the sort of easy to replicate simplicity that lets the dish speak for itself, rather than being complicated for the sake of looking spectacular. If you’re looking for Masterchef levels of artistry, you might be disappointed, though I doubt it.
‘Fress’ is the sort of cookbook to reach for if you’re looking for family favourites in the making; the sort you’ll likely reach for over and over again. If you’re looking for some new ideas with a focus on fresh produce, this is probably going to be a collection of recipes you love.
‘Fress’ is published by Mitchell Beazley/ Hachette, and is available at selected retailers.